The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

No one expresses grief quite like the Gaelic do. For over a decade now i’ve heard the songs and laments. I do believe they are the most beautiful melodies that could ever be sung. The spirit of the songs are so strong and pure, that it’s not difficult to discern whether the song is about death, or a different form of loss.

What i’m looking for are lovely songs about heartbreak and disappointment that don’t involve the death of a beloved. The reason being, I like to sing these songs for my "melodic" and "poetic" entertainment. With that being said, I feel there is a level of respect and sacrecy due to laments. I don’t feel right singing these songs for fun, especially with how personal(to the composer) many of them are, so I don’t.

So what are the sweetest, dearest, most-heartbreaking songs you know? Songs in minor and major modes are acceptable, and songs in Gaelic(Irish and Scottish) are preferred, but English is also acceptable.

Thanks for your contributions friends!

Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

The songs about immigration and leaving home and loved ones might fill the bill. One suggestion along this line would be "The Green Fields of Canada" as sung by Andy Irvine during his Planxty days. It’s sung in English, not Gaelic, but emotionally conveys a sense of loss just the same.

Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

FIDDLE4, Thanks for setting the standard. That’s exactly what i’m looking for! Beautiful, and sad 🙁 So what does the song mean? I’ve read a translation and there is dialect that i’m not understanding. Could you give me a simple idea of what the song is about?

Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

Teagan, that’s one of my favorite songs. Been listening to it for almost two years now. I could probably sing it(but the words would definitely come out toddlerish. That one is hard to learn).

Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

Hi Jerone — I would just like to say that you don’t sing (or play) sad songs about death ‘for fun’, but as a way of showing sympathy or empathy. It is very cathartic, even for those who are bereft, and brings a great inner peace if done well.

A Stor Mo Chroi
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZre2exBH10

Amhrán Mhuínse
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=By0QM8mlr28

Cailin deas cruite na mBo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scHr3a8HS4A

An Chúilfhionn
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k9e47BvOuQ

Leaving Limerick
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gFDDpqqBx1w

An Goirtín Eorna
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlGGjMyks24

Róisín Dubh
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdskdLV4MWY

Seán Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna (not so much death as war)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alTA5ge7tcM

Bean Dubh a’ Ghleanna
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RK-UCSCmYhE

Cití na gCumann
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyPb4X-BCqE

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Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9UmdSkjHqmc


Dónal Óg — one of the great Irish songs; recorded by many including perhaps the iconic version by Maighréad and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill. It is a love song with the famous last verse:

Bhain tú thoir agus bhain tú thiar díom
Bhain tú an ghealach gheal agus bhain tú an ghrian díom
Bhain tú an croí istigh i lár mo chléibh díom
Is nach rómhór m’eagla gur bhain tú Dia díom

You’ve taken the east from me; you’ve taken the west from me
You’ve taken the shining moon from me; you’ve taken the sun from me
You’ve taken the very heart out of the center of my breast
And I’m very much afraid that you’ve taken God away from me.

Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

Gam: "I would just like to say that you don’t sing (or play) sad songs about death ‘for fun’, but as a way of showing sympathy or empathy."

Of course! That was my point when I said,

"I feel there is a level of respect and sacrecy due to laments. I don’t feel right singing these songs for fun, especially with how personal(to the composer) many of them are, so I don’t[sing them]."

That’s why i’m looking for songs that specifically aren’t about death. Excuse my phrasing, i’m just finding it difficult to be clear about what i’m looking for, cause it’s hard to explain.

I’ve had a very hard time. I’ve gone through many heartbreaks. But i’ve never felt like I knew enough sad songs to help me get over the things i’ve been put through.

For example, recently a dear friend of mine moved away. She’s the sweetest girl i’ve met in years, and probably the most sincere, beautiful girl I’ve ever met. We were going to date but I learned she didn’t live here and was moving soon to return to college. I decided we should just be friends, and not to get attached to each other. It was my desperate attempt to avoid falling in love with her, but it failed… Not a week before she moved, I heard Altan sing "The Blackest Crow" at the concert. You know it tore my heart to pieces, but at least now I can return to this song when I’m deeply missing her.

"The time draws near, my dearest dear,
When you and I must part.
You cannot know my grief and woe
In my poor aching heart,

‘T is how I suffer for your sake,
Believe me love it’s true,
I wish that you were staying here ,
Or I would go with you."…

…"And when you’re in some foreign land,
Pray think on your absent friend,
And when the wind blows high or low,
A letter to me send,
And when the wind blows high or clear,
Pray send it love to me,
That I may know by your handwrite,
Of times I’ve gone with thee."

Sorry if my original post confused you gam, I was just trying to avoid opening up the way I just did.

On the subject of singing sad songs for fun, what I mean is I study the melody in these songs so that I could use them when making my own music. They’re so beautiful and sweet it’s hard not to feel a bit of piece and comfort when singing them. And to think someone already wrote a song about what you’re going through is always surreal. You know for sure someone else understands. So through the practicing and learning of these songs and melodies, the only way I can describe it is entertaining, in a spiritual sense.

Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

This one is in English but I think fits the bill quite well:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFW579m2GJw


Though it could be about death, I’ve seen that Keith Hancock originally wrote this in memory of his brother. But I think the overall song is more about the feeling of missing loved ones.

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Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

"…just trying to avoid opening up the way I just did…" I understand what you are saying. Everyone does, which is apparent from the songs and how well they are received the world over. If you’ve ever seen someone (sometimes a complete stranger) holding the singer’s hand while he sings his heart out, you will realise how sincere everyone is. The beautiful thing about the songs is that we can all share those — for most people — intensely private feelings without any sort of invasion, if you understand what I mean.
Anyway, this simple song always brings a lump to my throat, so it will probably finish you off:-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WonYt3wOLcE

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Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

"I would just like to say that you don’t sing (or play) sad songs about death ‘for fun’, but as a way of showing sympathy or empathy. It is very cathartic, even for those who are bereft, and brings a great inner peace if done well.”

…and if done badly, leave your audience empathising with anyone who has already passed on….

Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

Someone asked for a "happy Irish love song" at the pub a couple of years ago. They went home disappointed, because none of us could think of one…

Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

5stringfool,
If I am not mistaken, even though Clancys are singing it, the song is actually Scottish. And although it is uptempo, I have never got the feeling that the narrator has a healthy relationship with Mary Mack (or her mother). So I don’t think that one hit the spot. 😉

Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

Thanks for the contributions everyone. Some beautiful stuff up there.

Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz32IFAhgok


Julie Fowlis singing in Scottish Gaelic, with Gaelic lyrics and an English translation provided below the video. I find this song and the quality of Julie’s singing peculiarly mesmeric and poignant.

It’s about disappointed love; the last verse expresses a jaunty intention to find somebody else, but one feels the (male) character is whistling into the wind here and will go on feeling forlorn for some time yet.

Some years ago Fowlis sang this in a TV music competition - not confined to folk/trad - and came second in the public vote. I forget the channel and name of the event. It was one of those occasions where top-notch trad was up in the public eye and obviously impressing it, which (IMO) is always nice to see. I would add, her first-rate backing musicians share the credit due to her music.

Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

I should have added, Julie Fowlis’s song which I mentioned above is called Mo Ghruagach Dhonn. It is recorded on her album "Cuilidh".

Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

Thanks for sharing Nicholas. I’m a huge fan of Julie Fowlis. "Bothan Àirigh am Bràigh Raithneach" is one of my all time favorite ballads. There are no words in English for how beautiful her voice is… I wonder how you would descibe it in Gaelic.

Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KpNzalFKPo


Theme From Harry’s Game, by Clannad. It was produced to accompany the beginning and end (at least) of the Yorkshire TV series "Harry’s Game", made in the early 1980s and set in the NI Troubles.

Obviously deaths come into the story. But the music (to me, that is) expresses an immense sadness that seems to brood not only over the deaths but also far out across the circumstances that led up to them.

In her interesting and moving autobiography "The Other Side Of The Rainbow", Clannad’s lead singer Moya Brennan tells of the making of this piece, and how the first playback of the finished version left the band fairly awestruck by what they found they had created. I think I’ve got this right, anyway.

Re: The saddest Gaelic songs that aren’t about death.

I do like those literal (rather than poetic) sounding translations of Julie Fowlis’ songs. They must have a fine turn of words in the Gaelic but I would rather here Julie sing them and know what they are about than have someone try to turn them into poetic English.

In concert her summaries of the stories in English are lovely as well.